What is a Solar Carport? Everything You Need to Know

A solar carport is one of the simpler ways to create a structure that generates power while providing shelter for your car, but there are some additional considerations.

A car pulls under a canopy of solar panels.

A residential solar carport is a smaller version of those you find over some parking lots.

Artur Debat/Getty Images

A lot of rooftop solar has been installed in the past few years as people look to reduce their reliance on climate-change-causing fossil fuels and save money on electricity bills. Rooftop solar can pay for itself through energy savings and, thanks in part to a robust federal tax credit, is being installed in record-setting amounts each year.

But residential solar isn't limited just to the rooftop. Homeowners might find that ground-mounted solar panels are a better fit for their needs. A twist on ground-mounted and rooftop panels can help you charge your electric vehicle (or home) while sheltering your car from the elements. Stick solar panels on a simple shelter for your car and you've got a solar carport.

Solar carports are the epitome of a functional structure, providing both shade and power. They can take on any number of configurations, but all of them share certain considerations ranging from how you'll connect them to an energy system to who should build them. Here's our list of answers to the questions you should ask yourself when deciding if a solar carport makes sense for you. 

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What is a solar carport?

A carport is an open-sided structure that shelters cars from the elements. Think of it as a garage without walls. A solar carport is one where the roof holds or is made of solar panels.

While the definition is fairly broad and relatively simple, their ideal use is narrower and requires a bit more thought.

A solar carport can be a great multi-purpose structure to have on your property that's less complex than building a garage. It can be as simple as installing a rack of standard ground-mounted solar panels as you would for a typical installation, but raising them up to a height of six or seven feet in order to accommodate parking a vehicle underneath your new array.

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This creates a structure to support solar energy production while also shading and sheltering a vehicle. From this basic concept you can add as much functionality as you want, from batteries and charging stations for an electric vehicle to more structure that could allow your carport to function as a traditional garage or workshop. 

Ultimately, if you're interested in renewable energy and in need of some extra shade, shelter or both on your property, a solar carport is a win-win option. 

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Is a solar carport worth it?

Because it doesn't require building a new mounting structure, rooftop solar is typically going to be cheaper than ground-mounted solar array or a solar carport. But there are times when a solar carport might make the most sense.

While installing solar on a rooftop makes it cheaper, installing it elsewhere protects your roof. Both roofs and solar panels are products with a long useful life. Solar panels are commonly warrantied for 20 to 25 years and can continue to operate after the warranty expires. While panels can be removed and reinstalled, that can be costly and increase the risk of damage to the roof. Solar companies offer warranties protecting against leaky roofs, but they often expire before the warranties on the panels. Putting up a solar carport removes the roof from the equation.

Sometimes a roof isn't suited to installing solar panels: It's too shaded, facing the wrong direction or has too many obstructions. In this case, a carport might be a better solution.

There is value in your solar panels not only generating energy but also shading your car. A carport doesn't offer the security of a garage but does provide shelter from snow and the sun.

While rooftop solar panels can just as easily be used to charge an electric vehicle, residential solar carports offer a natural pairing. And homeowners looking to join the 26% already running their homes entirely on electricity might need more solar capacity as they adopt more electric appliances and vehicles. Adding a solar carport might make more financial sense than expanding to parts of the roof with less solar potential.

But according to Wyldon Fishman, founder of the New York Solar Energy Society, it probably doesn't make sense to construct an unneeded carport just for the solar component, especially if you already have a suitable garage. 

"Garage roofs can be a little less substantial than regular roofs, but if your garage roof faces south, maybe it makes sense," Fishman said.

An empty solar carport.
Marina Lohrbach/Getty Images

If you want to build a solar carport to tie into the grid or to your home's battery bank, but your only free space is far from those interfaces, keep in mind that it could be costly to dig a trench or run aerial wires to connect your carport.

As with any major purchase, make sure you do your research and shop around. You should understand your energy needs and solar potential. Then get multiple quotes from reputable companies, including local installers.

DIY Solar carports

Many people have built their own solar carports. It's an arguably easier task than a rooftop installation since you'll be removing the complexity of interacting with an existing roof that will need to be resealed after punching holes through it. But Fishman believes most people will probably not be up to the task.

"It's very hard to find people that have carpentry and building skills," Fishman said, advising that homeowners go with a certified electrician, especially when connecting to the grid. 

In most jurisdictions, there will also be code, permitting and inspection considerations that professionals will be able to better navigate.

Is a solar carport a good fit for an electric vehicle?

Storing your vehicle under a solar carport or a traditional garage depends largely on weather in your location and how precious your vehicle is. Typically a carport will offer significantly less protection from the elements than a garage. 

If you see lots of freezing temperatures, moisture or extreme weather in your location, your EV's sensitive lithium batteries may really appreciate a fully enclosed, climate-controlled garage. However, if you're in the sun belt and damaging ultraviolet rays are your primary concern, then a solar carport that simultaneously blocks and harvests those rays could be a perfect solution. 

Pros and cons of solar carports

Just like any solar solution, a solar carport might be right for some, but not others. Make sure it makes sense for your home and situation. What's right for your neighbor might not be what's best for you.


  • Solar carports simultaneously protect vehicles from the sun and other elements while generating electricity. 
  • They are a relatively cheap structure to build, and just slightly more complicated than regular ground-mounted solar panels. 
  • Like any other solar system, a carport with panels can reduce your utility bills and provide power during a blackout.
  • A solar carport enables you to utilize your EV as an electricity storage bank. 


  • A solar carport is a relatively expensive way to provide shade for a vehicle. 
  • Construction will require finding adequate space on your property.
  • Connecting a solar carport to the grid or home battery bank can be complicated and require extra infrastructure. 

Article updated on July 6, 2023 at 5:00 AM PDT

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Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
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Andrew Blok is a former editor for CNET who covered home energy, with a focus on solar. As an environmental journalist, he navigates the changing energy landscape to help people make smart energy decisions. He's a graduate of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State and has written for several publications in the Great Lakes region, including Great Lakes Now and Environmental Health News, since 2019. You can find him in western Michigan watching birds.
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